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Senator Mike Lee asks for help protecting religious liberty

FILE - Congregants kneel and observe social distancing while listening to Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez celebrate Mass at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles, Sunday, June 7, 2020. A religious freedom law firm with ties to President Donald Trump says it will sue California over its recent ban on singing or chanting in the church to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Utah Senator Mike Lee and several other senators wrote a letter to President Trump asking him to help protect religious liberty during the pandemic.

The letter is dated July 23, the day before the US Supreme Court ruled that churches in Nevada cannot open while saying that casinos can.

The senators suggest President Trump withhold any upcoming federal aid to state or local governments who unfairly restrict churches or houses of worship from meeting.

“Your resolve and leadership on this issue would deliver a strong message in these most troubling times,” says the letter.

Religious groups say they are willing to take all the precautions and safety measures, yet they are not treated the same as businesses, bars and other places.

They say this discriminatory behavior violates the Constitution’s guarantee of religious liberty and freedom.

For example, California’s governor has now announced a ban of singing or chanting in religious services, and has limited the size of such gatherings. But he did not put any of those restrictions on mass protests.

“Our nation needs its houses of worship now more than ever,” the letter says.

The other senators who signed the letter are: Mike Braun, Josh Hawley, Steve Daines, Kelly Loeffler, Thom Tillis, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Roger Wicker, James Lankford, and Tom Cotton.

Elder David A. Bednar, an apostle for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told BYU’s Religious Freedom Annual Review last month that governments dangerously breached boundaries protecting the free exercise of religion by quickly banning church-goers from meeting.

“We cannot deny and we should not forget the speed and intensity with which government power was used to shut down fundamental aspects of religious exercise,” he said.